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TMH General Studies Manual Review: Must Have Books for IAS Preparation

GS manual for Prelims paper 1 and 2

Last updated on April 8 2014

Are you looking for a companion that will provide all the topics of Prelims Paper 1 and 2 syllabus in one place? One that you can easily go through and revise before the Prelims? Tata McGraw Hill (TMH), a renowned name in educations books including books for IAS exam, has come out with with two guides that claim to fulfill the above requirements of IAS aspirants. The General Studies for Civil Services Preliminary Examination for Paper 1 and CSAT GS for Civil Services Preliminary Examination Paper 2. But how good are these manuals, do they fulfill the basic requirement of extensive syllabus coverage along with easy readability and accurate information? Let’s find out. But first let’s answer a basic question:

Do You Need a Reference Manual for Prelims?

This is a often asked question by IAS aspirants and it will be prudent to answer this first. A reference manual like the TMH Manuals for Paper 1 and Paper 2 cover all the topics listed in the Prelims syllabus along with practice question sets. The advantage of such a manual is you get all the information at one place. But is such a collection adequate or do you need to refer other books as well? For some topics you will not need to refer other books, like in the topics mentioned below in the review, while for some others you are required to read additional books (listed below). But without doubt such a manual helps to revise very quickly before the Prelims when it is not possible to refer a dozen or more books in a short time of 15 or 20 days. Another advantage is that some information like GK bits that are difficult to find or too time consuming to look up can be easily found in such reference manuals for Prelims. Plus, if you read the CSAT Manual review for Paper 2 in the end I have stated that no other book is required for Paper 2 other than the CSAT Manual. So with this important question answered, let’s get on with the review.

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TMH General Studies Manual for Paper 1

The TMH GS Manual is legendary among IAS aspirants and requires no introduction. It is one of the first books I recommend in my article on Books for Prelims (or CSAT). Why so? Simply because, although a guide cannot replace the basic books that you have to refer, it surely is handy when it comes to finding information on all subjects and topics at one place. Also some topics don’t require us to read NCERT books or other books; in such case the TMH GS manual is sufficient. But the most important use of such a  General Studies manual is during revision before the Prelims when you cannot go through all the books, especially since it is vital to take mock tests, the GS manual can be a real time saver by helping you revise quickly.

Another plus of this guide for Paper 1 is that it contains a module on current events as well. You can even practice tests with the sample papers, as well as refer past year’s solved prelims papers. The content is divided into the following sections:

  • History of India
  • Indian National Movement
  • Indian and World Geography
  • Indian Polity and Governance
  • Economic and Social Development
  • Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change
  • General Science
  • General Knowledge
  • Current Events
  • Two Practice Test Papers
  • Previous Years’ Question Papers 2007-2012

As can be seen all the topics in Paper 1 syllabus are covered here and they also provide 2 practice tests on the Prelims pattern with similar difficulty. There are many practice questions included after each section as well to provide you ample practice and opportunity for to test yourself.

Content Boxes and Easy Language

Useful Content Boxes

The first thing that strikes you as you flip the pages are the content boxes containing important facts or summarizing a topic. These boxes are there in all sections and are a very welcome addition since you immediately glance at the information contained in it even when just skipping past the other information. Also another advantage of the TMH General Studies Manual is the easy-to-read error-free language. Grammatical mistakes every now then, which are the hallmark of books from, can put off readers. Fortunately the language is simple and lucid. Also the answers to practice questions are quite accurate. But then, this is expected of a reputed publisher like TMH.

Now let’s review the important sections briefly.

Indian History

Indian History is divided into 2 sections – History of India covering the period from Ancient period till end of 19th Century and Indian National Movement covering the period from early 20th Century till the post-Independence phase. Although History coverage was not as good as their Geography material in the earlier editions, the current edition does a pretty good job at explaining Indian History. Even then, some topics like Buddhism seem rushed and more elaborate coverage would have been appreciated since UPSC tends to ask quite a few questions on Buddhism regularly.

Historical maps pertaining to the Mauryan empire, Delhi Sultanate etc. are included to give a proper understanding of the historical context. Even diagrams of family lineages are depicted which is very useful for sequence-based questions in Prelims.

Coming to Indian National Movement, although all major events are covered as well as the post-Independence phase of integration of princely states you will still need to refer the primary books like Bipin Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence. After all you cannot expect an entire book to be condensed in a few pages. This is after all, a reference manual but it does not replace the need to refer the primary books; at least not in the case of Modern Indian History.

Good Coverage of Indian and World Geography

I’ve always felt that Geography is the most well presented and explained portion in the TMH GS Manual and it’s no exception in this edition as well. All topics in Geography like Economic, Physical, Human are covered well along with detailed maps like those in the Oxford Student Atlas. In the section on Economic Geography the latest Census data is also included along with other important data relating to tribal and racial groups etc. In fact, of you’re short of time only referring the TMH GS Manual will be adequate in relation to the geography syllabus. It’s that good.

Indian Polity and Governance

Polity plays an important part in the Prelims and you can expect anywhere between 8-15 questions on it. The TMH General Studies Manual covers Indian Polity quite extensively including the tricky topics like Panchayati Raj, Emergency and Amendments. In fact all the amendments till the latest one are listed. It also discuses the current issues in focus like Electoral Reforms, Women’s Representation and so on. You will still need to refer a good book for bare acts though and I recommend PM Bakshi’s Constitution of India for this purpose.

Indian Economy in the TMH GS Manual

Economy is another important topic and facts and figures should be on your finger tips. The Indian Economy coverage in TMH Manual is not so satisfactory. Although it does not explain the fundamentals of Economy like Stock Market, Banking in detail other topics like Planning, Women Empowerment, Budgeting, Social and Welfare Schemes have been covered well. Even demographic and social data is included for your reference. I will advise you to supplement this with the Economic Survey of India published by Oxford University Press that contains a wealth of economic data in tabulated form.

Ecology, Bio-Diversity and Climate Change

These topics as you might know are constantly in the news and thus have been included in the new Prelims syllabus by UPSC. Good news is that TMH has added a separate section on these 3 topics in the reference manual for Paper 1. Each of the 3 topics have been tackled comprehensively and a lot of supplementary information is included as well. Another plus is that there are separate questions  on Ecology, Bio-Diversity and Climate Change after each topic. For aspirants who want to know a good source for tackling this section, TMH GS Manual is good enough.

Extensive Coverage of General Science

The Science portion has always been a plus point of getting the TMH Reference Manual and its no different this year as well. Every topic has been dealt comprehensively and separately under the Physics, Chemistry, and Biology sub-sections. Useful tables on vitamin, diseases, deficiencies etc. are also included. Plenty of explanatory diagrams are thrown in as well to aid learning. If you cover General Science well from the TMH GS Manual you will not require to refer other books for this purpose.

The General Knowledge Section is Pretty Good

Yes, the TMH GS Manual has an extensive section on General Knowledge. It starts with information on the different Indian States and contains useful info on the Indian Space Programme. Awards and Honours, Dams, Rivers, Lakes, Languages etc. Important International Organisations are also covered. GK has always been a crucial component of the Prelims paper and together with the Manorama Year Book, the TMH Manual is good combination for building up your General Knowledge.

Useful Coverage of Current Events

Although aspirants tend to focus on the past 10 months or so current events they should know that nowadays UPSC is asking questions related to events that occurred years back. And this is where the Current Events section in the TMH GS Manual will help you. It covers events from January till August this year, both domestic as well as international. So if you continue from this period onwards you will have a good collection of current bits on events that occurred 1-15 months prior to the Prelims.

All in all, the TMH GS Manual for Paper 1 is highly recommended for beginners as well as experienced IAS aspirants alike. It will add real value to your preparation and revision and for certain topics like Geography and Science can completely eliminate the need for a standard text book and other books. If you still haven’t got this book, I strongly suggest you get it and start reading it at the earliest.


TMH CSAT Manual for Paper 2

For a while I used to suggest three different books for Prelims paper 2, popularly known as CSAT, but not anymore. Now that TMH has come out with a separate reference manual for CSAT you don’t need to refer other books since the quality of this book is excellent. Let us review it briefly.

The TMH CSAT Manual is divided into 7 sections:

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal Skills Including Communication Skills
  • Logical Reasoning and Analytical Ability
  • Decision Making and Problem Solving
  • General Mental Ability
  • Basic Numeracy and Data Interpretation
  • English Language Comprehension Skills

As you can see the book not only covers the Prelims Paper 2 syllabus in detail but even goes beyond and is useful for other competitive exams as well. Each section starts with an introduction to the topic followed by detailed solved questions where steps to solve the particular problem type are included. After you gain confidence in tackling that question type, you are expected to take the exercise that follows. But that’s not all.  Detailed solutions are provided for each question at the end so there is no confusion left in your mind.

The advantage of the TMH CSAT Manual is the accuracy of the answers. While some other reference manuals are doubtful at best when it comes to accurate answers, this is never an issue with TMH books and the CSAT Manual is no exception.

I particularly liked the section on Decision Making and Problem Solving from where 7 questions are usually asked in every Prelims that carry no  negative penalty and should therefore be attempted. In this topic various question types that could be asked are listed followed by detailed explanation of each type and tips to answer them. The basic premise followed in the Manual for Decision Making is that certain Principles or Values are tested in the question and a corresponding Rationale or Reasoning is is required to pick the correct option. Once you follow this method you can then develop a sound judgement required by UPSC of civil servants and will then be able to get most of the answers correct.

Some of the often asked question types like Probability, Permutation and Combination, Venn Diagram, Distance and Time, Family Relations are also covered well in this book. But this is not all. The TMH CSAT Manual also contains 20 solved practice paper sets each containing 80 questions. After going through so many questions I doubt you can’t crack the Prelims with flying colours.

Summarizing, I feel TMH CSAT Manual for Paper 2 is a one-stop solution for your Paper 2 needs with detailed explanation in a simple manner and more than adequate practice questions. If you want to refer just one book for Prelims paper 2, go with this one.

I hope this review of the best reference manuals for Prelims paper 1 and 2 will be useful to you. I would like to hear your responses and experiences with these and other books in the comments below.

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